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Keeping Your Child’s Teeth Healthy

Keeping your child’s teeth healthy

Healthy teeth are important for general health and speech development. Most dental problems can be prevented. Early identification of children at risk of dental disease, and early detection of the disease, can prevent widespread destruction of the teeth and expensive dental treatment in a hospital under general anaesthesia.

Bottles and Dummies

Breast milk is best for your baby. If your child is not breastfeeding:

  • put only breast milk, formula or water in your baby’s bottle
  • always hold your baby when feeding and remove the bottle when your baby has had enough to drink
  • putting your baby to bed with a bottle can cause tooth decay
  • honey, glycerine, condensed milk or other sticky sweet foods or liquids on your baby’s dummy can cause tooth decay
  • from 6 months of age most children can learn to use a cup with practice – at around 12 months of age replace bottles with cups.


  • If your child is uncomfortable when teething, offer a teething ring or cold wash cloth.
  • If there are other symptoms, consult a doctor or a child and family health nurse.

Food and Drink

  • Offer healthy food for meals and snacks from around 6 months of age.
  • Leave baby foods unsweetened.
  • Tap water (boiled then cooled until 12 months of age) is the best drink in-between meals and at bedtime.
  • Keep treats, sweet snacks, and sweet fizzy drinks for special occasions only.

Toothbrushing Tips

  • Keep your own teeth and gums clean and healthy. Germs from your mouth can pass over to your baby’s mouth on dummies, bottles and spoons.
  • As soon as your child’s first teeth appear, clean them using a child sized soft toothbrush, but without toothpaste.
  • From 18 months of age clean your child’s teeth twice a day with a small pea-sized amount of low fluoride toothpaste. Use a child sized soft toothbrush; children should spit out, but not swallow, and not rinse.
  • Toothpaste may be introduced earlier, based on the advice of either a health professional with training in oral health or an oral health professional.
  • An adult should apply toothpaste for children under 6 years of age and store toothpaste out of the reach of children.
  • From around 3 years of age children can do some of the tooth-brushing themselves, but they still need an adult’s help to brush their teeth until they are around 7 to 8 years of age.
  • Watch for early signs of tooth decay – white or brown spots that don’t brush off. Seek professional advice as soon as possible.
  • Make sure your child has an oral health risk assessment conducted by a health professional with training in dental health or a dental health professional by their first birthday.

For further information

Contact the Central Intake Service on 1800 999 880 or

Last updated: 25 June 2018